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OD Theories and Theorists

Organizational Development (OD) is a field of research, theory, and practice dedicated to expanding the knowledge and effectiveness of people to accomplish more successful organizational change and performance.

OD is a process of continuous diagnosis, action planning, implementation and evaluation, with the goal of transferring knowledge and skills to organizations to improve their capacity for solving problems and managing future change.

History and Application of Organizational Development Theory

OD emerged out of human relations studies from the 1930s where psychologists realized that organizational structures and processes influence worker behavior and motivation.  Lewin’s work in the 1940s and 1950s also helped show that feedback was a valuable tool in addressing social processes.  More recently, work on OD has expanded to focus on aligning organizations with their rapidly changing and complex environments through organizational learning, knowledge management and transformation of organizational norms and values.

Key Concepts 

Organizational Climate – the mood or unique “personality” of an organization which can be observed in the attitudes and beliefs about organizational practices create organizational climate and influence members’ collective behaviour.  Climate features and characteristics may be associated with employee satisfaction, stress, service quality and outcomes and successful implementation of new programs. Climate features and characteristics include:

  • Leadership
  • Openness of Communication
  • Participative Management
  • Role Clarity
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Leader Support
  • Leader Control

Organizational Culture – Deeply seated norms, values and behaviours that members share.  The five basic elements of culture in organizations include:

  • Assumptions
  • Values
  • Behavioral norms
  • Behavioral patterns
  • Artifacts

The subjective features (assumptions, values and norms) reflect members’ unconscious thoughts and interpretations of their organizations.

Thought Pieces

  1. Three Essentials of Organization Development
  2. The Relevance of Power and Politics to OD
  3. Organization Design Capability 
  4. The Development of Culture Change
  5. A Humanistic Approach to Change